Scientists present first model of how buds grow into leaves

Mar 01, 2012
These are lead buds on a branch. Credit: John Innes Centre

Leaves come in all shapes and sizes. Scientists have discovered simple rules that control leaf shape during growth. Using this 'recipe', they have developed the first computer model able to accurately emulate leaf growth from a bud.

"A bud does not grow in all directions at the same rate," said lead author Samantha Fox from the John Innes Centre on Norwich Research Park.

"Otherwise leaves would be domed like a bud, not flat with a pointed tip."

By creating a computer to grow a virtual leaf, the BBSRC-funded scientists managed to discover simple rules of leaf growth.

Similar to the way a compass works, plant cells have an inbuilt . Instead of a magnetic field, the cells have molecular signals to guide the axis on which they grow. As deform during growth, the orientation and axis changes.

These are budding leaves. Credit: John Innes Centre

A leaf's the become patterned from an early stage within the bud, helping the leaf shape to emerge.

The researchers filmed a growing Arabidopsis leaf, a relative of oil seed rape, to help create a model which could simulate the growing process. They were able to film individual cells and track them as the plant grew.

It was also important to unpick the workings behind the visual changes and to test them in normal and .

"The model is not just based on drawings of leaf shape at different stages," said corresponding author Professor Enrico Coen.

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.

"To accurately recreate dynamic growth from bud to leaf, we had to establish the mathematical rules governing how leaf shapes are formed."

With this knowledge programmed into the model, developed in collaboration with Professor Andrew Bangham's team at the University of East Anglia, it can run independently to build a virtual but realistic leaf.

The model could now be used to help identify the genes that control leaf shape and whether different genes are behind different shapes.

"This simple model could account for the basic development and of all leaf shapes," said Fox.

"The more we understand about how plants grow, the better we can prepare for our future - providing food, fuel and preserving diversity."

Explore further: Too many chefs: Smaller groups exhibit more accurate decision-making

More information: ‘Generation of Leaf Shape through Early Patterns of Growth and Tissue Polarity’ will appear in the March 2, 2012 issue of the journal Science.

Journal reference: Science search and more info website

Provided by Norwich BioScience Institutes

5 /5 (3 votes)

Related Stories

How size matters: The beauty of nature explained

Dec 12, 2007

The beauty of nature is partly due to the uniformity of leaf and flower size in individual plants, and scientists have discovered how plants arrive at these aesthetic proportions.

Can a single layer of cells control a leaf's size?

Feb 25, 2010

Ever looked carefully at the leaves on a plant and noticed their various sizes and shapes? Why are they different? What controls the size and shape of each individual leaf? Very little is known about the developmental ...

Antagonistic genes control rice growth

Dec 15, 2009

Scientists at the Carnegie Institution, with colleagues, have found that a plant steroid prompts two genes to battle each other—one suppresses the other to ensure that leaves grow normally in rice and the ...

Elastic stresses influence formation of leaf veins

Apr 11, 2008

Elastic stresses may play a crucial role in determining a leaf's venation pattern, according to a joint Argentinian-French study published April 11th in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology. The researchers have d ...

Recommended for you

Field study shows how sailfish use their bill to catch fish

20 hours ago

(Phys.org) —A large team of European researchers has finally revealed the purpose of the long, thin, needle-like bill sported by the famous sailfish. It's used, they report in their paper published in Proceedings of ...

Explainer: How do homing pigeons navigate?

20 hours ago

Pigeons have extraordinary navigational abilities. Take a pigeon from its loft and let it go somewhere it has never been before and it will, after circling in the sky for while, head home. This remarkable ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

When things get glassy, molecules go fractal

Colorful church windows, beads on a necklace and many of our favorite plastics share something in common—they all belong to a state of matter known as glasses. School children learn the difference between ...

SK Hynix posts Q1 surge in net profit

South Korea's SK Hynix Inc said Thursday its first-quarter net profit surged nearly 350 percent from the previous year on a spike in sales of PC memory chips.